Krampus is a Christmas devil or demon who assists Saint Nicholas on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day, December 6th. This centuries-old tradition is probably the craziest Christmas tradition I’ve ever experienced. Krampus is a sinister figure who, according to legend and folklore, is tagging along with Saint Nicholas and comes to punish children who have misbehaved.
On December 6th each year, St. Nicholas leaves treats like candy and chocolate in the shoes of children who have been good. There are different variations of this depending on the country and family, but the idea is that good children are rewarded by St. Nicholas in recognition of their good behaviour. Krampus is a monster who accompanies St. Nicholas the night before and punishes children who have been bad. He carries a whip and a sack and, for children who have been really bad, he puts them in his sack and drags them to hell. The prospect of this is obviously terrifying and quite a deterrent for disobedient children. This tradition takes place in Austria, Germany, Czech Republic and other countries.
There’s some debate about how appropriate it is to scare kids in this way and the tradition is quite controversial. It has also been known as a time of actual danger when drunk people get dressed up, carry whips, and actually hurt people. I was warned earnestly by people beforehand that I should be aware of the possible risk to my safety. I was at the Old Town Square in Prague and noticed a bunch of police standing around the area to make sure everything was in order. I didn’t notice anyone being super rowdy. The Krampus figures occasionally charged people and made a scary noise that made people scream but it all seemed to be in good fun. The assorted Krampuses posed for photos and greeted children. They didn’t scare any children that I saw and the kids seemed to enjoy it as much as they did meeting St. Nicholas. A lot of people were dressed up wearing horns and hats with horns on them. The whole night seemed like a Halloween-Christmas celebration.
Have you heard of the 'Christmas devil' Krampus tradition before? What do you make of it?
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